1. National and transnational actors reshaping (in)security dynamics across MENA and the Sahara-Sahel

Chair: Ruth Hanau Santini (University of Naples “l’Orientale”)
Discussant: TBD

Date: TBD
Room: TBD


This panel offers a number of historically rich and theoretically informed reflections on how in different Arab and African countries security and insecurity dynamics have proceeded in counter-intuitive ways. From cases where, as in Mali, the role of external actors supposedly contributing to the country’s security and political stabilization has reinforced fragmentation of authority, to cases, as Hizbullah in Syria, where an external non-state actor has entered a conflict for domestic reasons ending up reinforcing both the foreign regime in power as well as its provenance state.
This panel, across several examples, re-locates agency within the army and other security forces or armed groups, providing more nuanced and critical accounts of Arab and African states beyond crystallized and structural readings.

This focus is warranted not just at an empirical level, given the pivotal role these actors have played since 2011, but on an analytical level too: state security forces are the symbolic and factual repositories of statehood as they embody the state to its population on a daily basis, and any fragmentation, successful interference in their operations or delegation of political violence to other bodies forces us to rethink the usefulness of classic weberian conceptions of authority.

Namely, the panel aims to offer new insights deriving from both Arab and African countries enabling to further problematize the literature on statehood and sovereignty, even in a key issue area as security governance. We take issue on the one hand with a idealized Westphalian state, with distinct boundaries and borders’ inviolability, something increasingly violated across the globe and in various ways in the MENA-Sahara-Sahel region, and on the other with a Weberian-induced expectation of the monopoly over the threat or use of violence by the state and its ability to autonomously carry out security-related tasks.

We will, across the different papers, in particular emphasize the insecurity dynamics from the domestic to the regional level, and viceversa, and the intermingling between state and non-state actors, be they national or transnational, within a critically revised Principal-Agent framework.

Most papers will illustrate a dynamic of insecuritisation, be it intentional or an unintentional consequence, both from the local to the regional level and from outside to inside, capitalising on the state’s far from perfectly Weberian control of the territory.